Is Mother Earth chastising Man for the harm Man has inflicted upon Her in his short-sighted ungrateful exploitation of Her generous resources?
We were not allowed to go out. From my window, I saw animals, many birds and insects: they had the right to be outside in the open air. It filled me with a strange feeling, as if Mother Earth was repudiating us: “Get inside, you’ve done too much wrong, I don’t want to see you anymore!”
We were being chased from all places, streets, cafés, markets, theatres, and from our cherished Cannes Film Festival, while cats, birds, cows were and still are at home in the streets and free to walk on the carpets of the world, be they red or not.
Is Man no more at home on Earth?
In India’s wonderful Vedic tradition, we learn that at a time the whole world became perturbed due to nefarious activities, the predominating deity of the Earth, known as Bhumi, went to see Lord Brahma to tell of her calamities. Bhumi assumed the shape of a cow and presented herself before Lord Brahma with tears in her eyes. She was bereaved and was weeping, relating the calamitous position of the Earth.
The bull is the emblem of Dharma, the moral principle, and the cow is the representative of the Earth. Nowadays, the cow is being slaughtered and the bull is only standing on one leg as the threefourths of humanity have evacuated the Sacred from their lives.
We are at a time when both thinkers and scientists are questioning our modern materialistic model, at a time when the film industry has to freeze and a Thierry Frémaux, the Big-Screen bard, go digital. Is it not also time for Indian Studios and Independents to clear a corridor to uplifting films? Films that could possibly draw their narrative from India’s invaluable and under-explored homegrown richness, the Mahabharata Franchise, the Bhagavata-purana Franchise, the Ramayana Franchise, all available, all IP free and all courtesy of Vyasadeva and Valmiki.
Inspiration for stories with spiritual content is everywhere, but nowhere more than from within the cradle of spirituality – India, with her rich oral and written tradition. It is time for Indian-crafted films to show the world the beauty of India’s culture, rather than follow Western films down the same old beaten track of portraying an “Indian genre” associated only with misery and social conflict as their main topics.
Unfortunately, those of the new generation filmmakers who are more apt in the handling of a Universal Cinema Language, have been Westernized to think that shabby hardship is the only theme that will take them to international festivals. Historically, great tragedies such as the current pandemic have often brought about significant changes. This crisis offers us the opportunity for a change of consciousness towards what images and narratives we are feeding audiences with.
Audiences must have their say in the kind of films they want the industry to offer. We just have seen how, in a few days, a strong public will is capable of completely changing our way of life. Despite the shortterm economic imperatives”, despite our habits and at the cost of our comfort. Making the collective choice to demand less gratuitous mind-polluting images, less vacuity, more beauty, subtlety and inspiration dressing up our screens would be a much less arduous change than the one we are currently undergoing.
Will we all be, filmmakers and film consumers, up to the challenges?
Bhagavad-Gita tells us the soul can never be cut nor burnt. Have we experienced the soul cannot be locked down either, free to express craving for uplifting content?
Pierre Assouline, a producer in France and India with Selections and Awards including Competition in Venice, Competition and Jury Award in Locarno, Competition in India, Pierre Assouline currently works at establishing “The Uplifting Cinema Project”, a production slate of the world.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org